I love tomatoes, as do many people, but I have to say that you really cannot beat the taste of fresh grown heirloom varieties. Heirloom plants are those that have been grown for generations, many having rich histories. What better way to keep these unique historical plants alive than to grow them in your own garden – provided they’re suitable for your area that is. I’ve grown a number of heirloom tomatoes, some with good results and others not so much. My mother grows many as well and we tend to swap plants or the resultant tomatoes.
I’ll be honest, there have been a few, not many, that have struck me as totally repulsive – like last season’s CrÃ¨me Brule tomatoes. My mother and others found them delightful. I, on the other hand, found the taste to be more like a nasty mushroom. So why does this matter? Simple. Following are top 10 heirloom tomatoes for the garden – must haves for me, but keep in mind that success is determinate on proper growing conditions. And flavor, as with anything, is a matter of individual perception.
1. Cherokee Purple – The sweet, juiciness of this medium to large sized tomato is popular among many people, and just the right size for sandwiches. The plant produces pink-purple fruits on large vines so staking is beneficial.
2. Brandywine – This Amish heirloom tomato is one of the most commonly grown in gardens and said to be one of the best tasting – they are tangy and delicious. The tomatoes are large, rosy-pink in color and the plant’s vining foliage resembles potato leaves.
3. German Johnson – This is another large, deep pink heirloom tomato. The plant is a vigorous grower and typically produces high yields of fruit, which is quite flavorful and large enough to fit nicely on bread for the most amazing sandwich ever.
4. Caspian Pink – This Russian heirloom favorites make great choices for gardeners in cooler regions. The plants produce large pink, globe-shaped fruits with a mild, sweet flavor.
5. Kellogg’s Breakfast – These tomatoes are large and bright yellow-orange with a sweet tangy flavor. Another good one for sandwiches any time of day, not just for breakfast. The plants can get quite large too, so be sure to provide sturdy support.
6. Green Sausage – I love these tomatoes! The yellow-green fruits get about 3-4 inches long and resemble miniature bananas, though some compare it to elongated sausages. They have a tangy, sweet flavor and are great for sauces or added to salads.
7. Tigerella – This plant produces small silver-dollar sized fruit with reddish-orange skin dappled by golden-green striping, and its flesh is tangy sweet. It is a prolific grower and producer, so one plant will give you more than enough. The only downside I had with it was its susceptibility to cracking quite easily. Best to pluck them from the vine as soon as you can and allow them to continue ripening on the windowsill.
8. Reisetomate – If you want to grow something different, this heirloom tomato is just the one! Reisetomate tomatoes are definitely a visual oddity, looking more like numerous cherry tomatoes fused together, but are easily pulled apart and eaten. In fact, the name means “travelers tomato” in German, making great snacks for those on the go with a sweet, yet acidic, flavor.
9. Wagner Blue – Again, here is another “unusual” looking heirloom tomato. It’s blue with green flesh! While at first glance this might deter you, don’t let it. The fruits aren’t very big, normally only around 3 inches or so, but the taste is amazingly sweet, yet tangy all in one bite.
10. Topaz – Ok, so I’m partial to this one not only because its name is my birthstone but Topaz tomatoes are so easy to grow and very prolific producers – you will have more than enough from just one plant. The cherry type fruits are mild and tasty with a stunning yellow-gold color and green streaks.